Written by Lt. j.g. Emma Lutton
“It was a direct hit,” Chief Petty Officer Walter Evans, electrician’s mate, said solemnly. His entire neighborhood, just outside of Panama City Beach, was left in ruin after Hurricane Michael ripped through, Oct. 12, 2018.
While his property was left in shambles, luckily his family had evacuated in time and were all safe. Evans then reached out for any assistance he could, and Lt. j.g Aaron Black, a Flight School student at NAS Pensacola, answered the call.
“I only met him once before,” Black said. “But then he called me Friday morning explaining the devastation in his area, so I figured if he was reaching out to a guy he doesn’t really know, he must really be in trouble.”
Black had a short break over the weekend between studies and acted quickly to arrange assistance. He put out a message for help in a Facebook group of his classmates and was amazed at how quickly everyone rallied behind the cause. While Black may have received the original call, none of this could have been accomplished without the selfless acts and tireless dedication of all the Coast Guard flight school students who volunteered.
Black, and three other officers, took truckloads of tools, fuel, water and food to Evan’s neighborhood and got to work that afternoon. They helped patch four roofs, cleared debris, and took down severely damaged trees from the roads and yards around the neighborhood.
“Not only did they help me, but they worked tirelessly to help my neighbors as well,” Evans said. “Many of them are first responders themselves. They had only come home for maybe 10 to 15 minutes to check on their families quickly before heading back out to the community.”
On Saturday, he brought 10 more officers, and even more on Sunday. Black even worked with Lt. j.g. Jeffrey Davis to start a fundraising page. So far, $2,190 has been raised to purchase cleaning supplies, fuel, tools and water to assist the volunteers with the cleanup efforts.
Funnily enough, Black was originally going to meet an old friend in St. Petersburg for the weekend, but plans changed at the last minute. He still said it “turned into a pretty good weekend!” He was excited to be able to do something and only hopes he provided at least a little help.
Evans answers that hope: “If Aaron had not led this team to assist us, I don’t know how long it would have taken us all to stabilize after the damage. We will forever be grateful and thankful to everyone who volunteered. I hope they understand the true impact they made on all of our lives.”